The Blackwater Tractor Run is an annual event with a different charity being chosen to benefit from the proceeds each year, yet the most notable feature of this year’s gathering was the delightful weather that chose to appear on the day.

The starting point was the church carpark at Blackwater in Co. Wexford, just a few miles inland from the coast, a colourful village which prides itself on its appearance and makes a delightful backdrop to this sort of event.

Tractors parked at Blackwater
Tractors waiting for the start of the run at Blackwater

Around 60 tractors set off, all in the cause of the St. Bridget’s Day Senior Care Centre in Co. Wexford.

There was a combination of classic and contemporary machines, although it was the older tractors that dominated.

Legacy of local dealers

As always on local tractor runs, it is the manufacturers with local dealerships that will make up the bulk of the entrants, and it was the red of Massey Ferguson and the blue of Ford which were the more numerous entries.

Ferguson 35 in countryside

Yet, with Fiat having purchased the bulk of the Ford tractor division in 1991, early new New Hollands are also very much a classic among younger generations, and Fords like the 5000 will now appear vintage, despite them still being able to put in a good days work.

Family with Fordson
Sarah Connick and Aaron Fitzgerald with his restored Fordson Major, with sons (l-r) Jake and Jack. Eight-week-old Rex was also brought along for the day

However, the older Dagenham built models are still fondly remembered, with a 1959 Fordson Major being brought along by Aaron Fitzgerald and family.

It had undergone a previous rebuild at some point, so little more than a fresh coat of paint and some new tyres restored it to its present condition.

Far from flimsy Fiats

There were a couple of Fiats from that era at Blackwater as well. The Fiat 80-90s have proven to be particularly robust over the years, despite the mutterings of them being cheap and flimsy at the time of them being sold into the UK and Ireland.

Fiat tractor at Blackwater
The Fiat 80-90 has proved tremendously popular over the years and variants are still in production worldwide

As it turned out, few tractors have defied their original critics as much as these machines and they continue continue to be built under licence around the world.

David Browns were also popular, with a good range of later cabbed models turning up, but only one classic international found its way to the meet, a B series that carried the scars of a hard life under a fresh coat of paint.

International B Series
A few wrinkles in the metalwork reminds us that this was a working tool rather, than it being preserved as pristine museum piece

This is an interesting approach to restoration. Older tractors will have been knocked about over the years to varying degrees, and many owners will want to bring them back to better than showroom condition.

Others will prefer to leave them with what is politely referred to as a patina, but the sort of halfway house as shown here lends the tractor an air of comfortable old slippers, and works well in this case, reminding us of its working life.

Oldest Deere at Blackwater

Another interesting entrant was a John Deere Model 60. This was built in the heyday of the company’s ‘Johnny Popper’ tractors, so named after the twin horizontal cylinder layout and its distinctive sound.

John Deere tractor
The Model 60 AR was introduced in 1953 and provided 38hp

This arrangement was inherited from the Waterloo tractor of 1917 and wasn’t displaced until the advent of the New Generation tractors in 1960, which had the conventional vertical in line cylinder arrangement that we are familiar with today.

Air cooled motion

Tractors green were rather sparse on the day, John Deere not being the strongest brand in the area, however, there was a Deutz 6806 which went a long way to make up for the shortfall.

The Deutz 6806 was produced from 1974 to 1981 and represents the end of the post war design era as the company moved forward towards the DX models, which were much more modern in styling and outlook.

Deutz tractor at Blackwater
The air cooled Deutz D6806 was a match between old school design and new fangled Q cabs

It was a tractor typical of its time, 67hp, compact and fit for most day-to-day jobs with a cab that was more than just a glorified bike shed, as considerations of driver comfort started to extend beyond mounting the seat on a spring.

What was missing however, was the optional driven front axle.

At the time, the Anglo-American tractor manufacturers were determined to keep things cheap and simple and not bother with such complexities, yet the continental brands knew better, and eventually prevailed.

Zetor tractor on Blackwater run
The much maligned Zetors were really quite advanced for their time. The 4911 is from the late 70s and comes with a flat floor safety cab

The company that claims to have pioneered the universal use of 4WD is Zetor, and yet the only example on the run was a very nicely kept 4911, which was a 2WD.

Despite the lack of a driven front axle, it still had that distinctive square cab that seems rather oversized for a 45hp tractor, and indeed it is, but these Brno (Czech Republic) made tractors were never slaves to western convention.

Zetor’s DNA

It might be argued that there were one and a half Zetors participating, as there was also an Ursus 1012 in the mix.

In 1962 Zetor, Ursus and Universal had got together to produce the higher horsepower models with Ursus taking responsibility for the rear axle and hydraulics, Zetor made the engines and gearboxes and Universal the front axle.

Ursus tractor
The Ursus versions of the Crystal range were assembled in Poland from a mix of Czech and Polish components

Thus it was a joint effort between all three Iron Curtain countries and when Ursus started selling them under their own name as Polish tractors the machines still contained 50% Zetor components.

Altogether it was a great day for tractor enthusiasts with the welcome warmth and wide selection of tractors going some way to making up for the long drawn out winter.